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The Gaping Holes of Russia-gate

By Ray McGovern and William Binney | Consortium News | May 20, 2017

Official Washington got to relive the excitement of Watergate in a “gotcha” moment after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. There were fond recollections of how righteous the major newspapers felt when condemning President Nixon over his “Saturday Night Massacre” firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox.

But the overriding question from “this Russia thing, with Trump and Russia” — as President Trump calls it — is whether there is any there there. The President labeled it a “made-up story” and, by all appearances from what is known at this time, he is mostly correct.

A few days before Comey’s firing, the FBI Director reportedly had asked for still more resources to hunt the Russian bear for supposedly “interfering” with last year’s election to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. And so the firing allowed the Watergate-recalling news outlets to trot out the old trope that “the cover-up is worse than the crime.”

But can that argument bear close scrutiny, or is it the “phony narrative” that Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn of Texas claims it to be? Cornyn quipped that, if impeding the investigation was Trump’s aim, “This strikes me as a lousy way to do it. All it does is heighten the attention given to the issue.”

Truth is, President Trump had ample reason to be fed up with Comey, in part for his lack of enthusiasm toward investigating actual, provable crimes related to “Russia-gate” — like the flood of sensitive national security leaks, such as the highly sensitive intercepted communications used to precipitate the demise of Trump aide Michael Flynn.

The retired Army lieutenant general was “caught” talking with Russia’s ambassador last December, a normal undertaking for a person designated as the incoming National Security Adviser. But Obama administration holdovers twisted that into a supposed violation of the archaic 1799 Logan Act and then used a transcript of the phone call to trip up Flynn because he didn’t have perfect recollection of the conversation.

So, a trumped-up federal case was used to help get Flynn fired, but an apparent criminal act – the Flynn leak among many other leaks – was apparently ignored. We suspect that one reason for Comey’s disinterest was that he already knows who was responsible.

In contrast to Comey’s see-no-evil reaction to criminal leaking, the FBI Director evinced strong determination to chase after ties between Russia and the Trump campaign until the cows came home. The investigation (already underway for 10 months) had the decided advantage of casting doubt on the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency and putting the kibosh on his plans to forge a more workable relationship with Russia, a win-win for the Establishment, the Military-Industrial Complex, and the FBI/CIA/NSA “Deep State”; a lose-lose for the President – and arguably the American people and the world, both of whom might benefit from fewer big-power tensions and lower spending on an arms race.

An Evidence Shortage

What has been particularly noteworthy about this “scandal” is how much spooky music we’ve heard and how many sinister suspicions have been raised versus actual “evidence” of the core allegations. So far, it has been smoke and mirrors with no chargeable offenses and not a scintilla of convincing proof of Russian “meddling” in the election.

The oft-cited, but evidence-free, CIA/FBI/NSA report of Jan. 6 — crafted by selected senior analysts, according to then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper — is of a piece with the “high-confidence,” but fraudulent, National Intelligence Estimate 15 years ago about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

But what about the “Russian hacking,” the centerpiece of the accusations about Kremlin “interference” to help Trump? Surely, we know that happened. Or do we?

On March 31, 2017, WikiLeaks released original CIA documents — almost completely ignored by the mainstream media — showing that the agency had created a program allowing it to break into computers and servers and make it look like others did it by leaving telltale signs (like Cyrillic markings, for example). The capabilities shown in what WikiLeaks calls the “Vault 7” trove of CIA documents required the creation of hundreds of millions of lines of source code. At $25 per line of code, that amounts to about $2.5 billion for each 100 million code lines. But the Deep State has that kind of money and would probably consider the expenditure a good return on investment for “proving” the Russians hacked into Democratic Party emails.

In other words, it is altogether possible that the hacking attributed to Russia was actually one of several “active measures” undertaken by a cabal consisting of the CIA, FBI, NSA and Clapper — the same agencies responsible for the lame, evidence-free report of Jan. 6.

Comey displayed considerable discomfort on March 20, explaining to the House Intelligence Committee why the FBI did not insist on getting physical access to the Democratic National Committee’s computers in order to do its own proper forensics, but chose to rely on the examination done by the DNC’s private contractor, Crowdstrike. The firm itself has conflicts of interests in its links to the pro-NATO and anti-Russia think tank, the Atlantic Council, through Dmitri Alperovitch, who is an Atlantic Council senior fellow and the co-founder of Crowdstrike.

Given the stakes involved in the Russia-gate investigation – now including a possible impeachment battle over removing the President of the United States – wouldn’t it seem logical for the FBI to insist on its own forensics for this fundamental predicate of the case? Or could Comey’s hesitancy to demand access to the DNC’s computers be explained by a fear that FBI technicians not fully briefed on CIA/NSA/FBI Deep State programs might uncover a lot more than he wanted?

President Trump has entered into a high-stakes gamble in confronting the Deep State and its media allies over the accusations of his colluding with Russia. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, publicly warned him of the risk earlier this year. “You take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,” Schumer told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Jan. 3.

If Mr. Trump continues to “take on” the Deep State, he will be fighting uphill, whether he’s in the right or not. It is far from certain he will prevail.

Ray McGovern (rrmcgovern@gmail.com) was a CIA analyst for 27 years; he briefed the president’s daily brief one-on-one to President Reagan’s most senior national security officials from 1981-85. William Binney (williambinney0802@comcast.net) worked for NSA for 36 years, retiring in 2001 as the technical director of world military and geopolitical analysis and reporting; he created many of the collection systems still used by NSA.

May 20, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Liberated Area in the Middle East”?: Western Imperialism in Rojava

Part 1 of a 2 part series

By Leftist Critic | Dissident Voice | May 20, 2017

Over 17.1 million live in a socially democratic, secular state, the Syrian Arab Republic, ravaged by overt and covert imperialist machinations supported by Turkey, the Gulf autocracies, and the Western capitalist states. Their government is led by the National Progressive Front (NPF), with its most foremost party the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party which is joined by numerous radical and socially progressive parties. The NPF’s majority in the Syrian’s People’s Council, the Syrian parliament, was reaffirmed in the April 2016 elections by the Syrian people, elections which were predictably boycotted by the Western-backed opposition and predictably declared “unfree” by Western capitalists. President Donald Trump dealt the rationally-minded Syrians a blow that goes beyond his ill-fated show of strength manifested in the cruise missile attacks last month: direct US support of the Syrian Kurds who consist and are related to Rojava, officially called the “Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria” (NSR), “Syrian Kurdistan” or “Western Kurdistan,” to give a few names.

It is part and parcel of those in the Western and even international “left” to declare that the Rojava Kurds are “revolutionary” or somehow “liberated.” Here is a sampling from their arguments in favor of such a group when challenged on a radical left-leaning subreddit: (1) the Kurds are “very prudent” to get support from the West, (2) they aren’t against the Syrian government, they have “liberated people under ISIS control,” (3) the national borders were drawn by imperialists so “Kurdistan should have been a country in the first place,” and (4) Rojava have stated that they believe “a federal system is ideal form of governance for Syria.”1 This article aims to prove that such pro-Rojava perspectives are an unfounded and dangerous form of international solidarity.

US imperialist support for the Kurdish cause

Only a few days ago, Trump approved a Pentagon plan which would “directly arm Kurdish forces fighting in Syria,” specifically the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) comprised of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Syrian Arab Coalition (SAC), all of which are elements of Rojava.2 The US plans to use these groups to “mount an assault on Raqqa,” the de facto capital of Daesh, called ISIS in the West, which sits in the heart of Syria. The arming of such forces is a reversal of Obama-era policy but only to an extent. The armed support, according to one account, would consist of “small arms, machine guns, ammunition, armored vehicles, trucks and engineering equipment.” Another account added that these fighters would receive “U.S.-manufactured night-vision goggles, rifles and advanced optics,” all of which are used by US special operations forces. As a result, YPG fighters would begin to “bear strong similarities to other American-trained foreign special forces.”This support may relate to possibly imminent “massive invasion of Syria” by US and Jordanian forces in an effort to support their Free Syrian Army (FSA) proxies and enter areas adjacent to those controlled by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA).

The US claimed it had been in “constant contact” with the Turks to assure them the Kurdish troops would not have “any role in stabilizing or ruling Raqqa after the operation,” with “local Arabs” (undoubtedly those chosen by the US and the West) governing the city afterwards. The Turks, who want the Western-backed FSA to lead the offensive, have been engaging in military strikes on PKK (Kurdish Worker’s Party) and YPG fighters within Iraq and Syria, which affects US special ops forces directly helping theses groups. The Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, which has a complicated but still imperial inter-relationship with the US, Nurettin Canikli, showed his anger on May 10 when he said that “the supply of arms to the YPG is unacceptable. Such a policy will benefit nobody.” This position isn’t a surprise since the Turks see the YPG as a branch of the PKK and are undoubtedly strongly anti-Kurd. Predictably the announcement of direct armament was received well by the Rojava forces. A SDF spokesman said that “the US decision to arm the YPG… is important and will hasten the defeat of terrorism” and Saleh Muslim, co-chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), another Rojava element, declared that “the Raqqah campaign is running in parallel with the international coalition against terrorism. It’s natural that they would provide weapons” to such Kurdish forces. Keep in mind this is the same person who called for the US to expand its military strikes on the Syrian government to other groups with purported chemical weapons, saying that Trump’s cruise missile attack will “yield positive results.”

Anyone with sense knows he is wrong. Arming of these Kurds will be cheered by the editorial boards of the bourgeois Chicago Tribune and Bloomberg News, former imperial diplomat Antony “Tony” John Blinken, and the president of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria (KNAS), Sherkoh Abbas, among many others.3

The same day that the organs of US imperialism announced that these Kurds would get arms directly from the war machine, Trump declared a “national emergency” in regard to Syria.4 He called the country’s government an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States” saying that it supported terrorism, undermined US and international efforts to “stabilize” Iraq, brutalized the Syrian people, generated “instability throughout the region,” and called for regime change, saying that there should be a “political transition in Syria” that will benefit the US capitalist class. This declaration in particular, released the same day as similar reauthorizations of other Obama era “national emergency” orders for the Central African Republic and Yemen, buttressed a 2012 executive order which delineated sanctions on the state of Syria! All in all, the Western imperialists know that Syria does not constitute this “threat” but they choose to portray it that way in order to justify continued massive war spending, which comprises at least half of the US federal budget.

Beyond these declarations, the US support for the “good” Kurds (“Good” by Western standards) is nothing new, mainly since 2014. The bourgeois media has reported, especially since January, about the “U.S.-Kurdish alliance” consisting of the US support of the SDF and YPG as effective front forces to “fight ISIS,” angering the Turks who consider such forces to be utterly hostile since they see it as an extension of the PKK, but the US imperialists care little about this gripe.5 The US is supporting these forces with 500 US special ops forces (half of the 1000 US troops stationed in the country), armored vehicles, and warplanes as “air support” for their offensives, along with some arms, even prior to the recent announcement. Some call these forces, which have been attacked by Turkey in the past and “accidentally” by US bombs, as “the vanguard of U.S. proxy forces on the ground” in Syria, undoubtedly dismaying two deluded Marxists who thought they were fighting for an “egalitarian utopia.”6

Such individuals should not be surprised. After all, a top US commander has defended YPG actions, claiming that they did not attack into Turkey, almost serving as a de facto spokesperson of the group. Lest us forget a press conference just last month where US Colonel John Dorrian, spokesperson for the US-led coalition bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan, slyly admits that the YPG, Peshmerga, PKK, and SDF/SAC are partners in their “anti-Daesh” bombing efforts. Additionally, such Kurdish forces have gained other avenues of support from settler-colonist Canada (also see here) and from the Russian Federation, which has given them, according to reports, money, equipment, and a seat at the negotiating table. Russian support is interesting since they are also supporting the Syrian government in its fight against terrorism, making one possibly wonder if their support for these Kurds is for some unspoken reason.

It gets worse. “Good” Kurdish leaders have said behind the scenes that they are willing to cooperate with Israel, the apartheid and murderous Zionist state which has given limited military support to Iraqi Kurds and bought millions of barrels of their oil, in line with Mr. Netanyahu’s declaration that “we should … support the Kurdish aspiration for independence…[the Kurds are] a nation of fighters [who] have proved political commitment and are worthy of independence” and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked who also called for an independent Kurdistan. These feelings add to their cooperation with the NATO criminals. It is evident that with the “help of US airpower” the YPG, along with SDF, has been able to take “control of an estimated 26,000 sq km (10,000 sq miles) of Syria,” including a 250 mile “stretch of territory along the Turkish border,” all of which constitutes Rojava.7 It is even more suspicious that US soldiers are advising and assisting SDF and YPG soldiers. They are, according to one report, assisting them in “targeting ISIS positions with mortars and laser guided air strikes,” with the YPG’s media office even telling local journalists, initially, to “not take video footage of the U.S. Special Forces” so people won’t know they are backed by ruthless imperialist foot soldiers.8

Even so, local fighters of the YPG are reportedly “pleased with the American presence.” In 2016, the State Department openly admitted such cooperation. Mark Toner declared that “coordination continues” with the YPG and SDF against the “common enemy” of Daesh. Spokesperson John Kirby said that the US had “provided a measure of support, mostly through the air” for such groups, “and that support will continue,” adding that “we have said that these Kurdish fighters are successful against Daesh…and we’re going to continue to provide that support” and spoke of a “partnership with Kurdish fighters.” More than these blanket statements, Talal Silo, a former SAA colonel and official spokesperson of the SDF, said the following, which shows that they are deeply tied to US imperial objectives:

It’s forbidden to negotiate with the Russians because we seek for an alliance with the United States. It’s impossible to communicate with any other party and to not lose the credibility of the international coalition. Of course, we are free, but we can not attack if there is not signal from the Americans. We will not unite with the Syrian army against ISIS because our forces operate only with the forces of the international coalition led by the United States. We are partners of the United States and the coalition. They make decisions. There can’t be a coordination between the Russians and us. Because first of all we have a strategic partnership with the international coalition led by the United States.

That’s not all. The US has also provided support to the Peshmerga, militia of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, part of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and escorted a PKK senior leader, Ferhad Şahin or Şahin Cilo, with over a 1 million bounty on his head by the Turkish government, through a crowd.9 The support for the Peshmerga also increased dramatically in recent days. The US State Department approved the Pentagon sending $295.6 million “worth of weapons, vehicles and other equipment” which includes but is not limited to “4,400 rifles, 113 Humvees and 36 howitzers.”10 These armaments, which only need simple congressional approval, assured in this political climate, would be used to arm two brigades of Peshmerga light infantry and two artillery battalions to assist such units. While few governments are on the record as publicly supporting independent or autonomous states in Syria or Iraq, apart from hawkish John McCain, the Peshmerga have been armed by Western European countries such as France and Germany, along with the Turks, while British special forces reportedly lurk within Syria in an effort to achieve imperial objectives.11

Earlier this month, there was another development in this realm: a plan to link Rojava with the Mediterranean Sea. This action, for which they will ask the US to support them politically (and implied militarily), the SDF forces would “push west to liberate the city of Idlib” which Hediya Yousef, a high-ranking official in Rojava said is part of their “legal right” to have access to the Mediterranean, from which he claimed “everyone will benefit.”12 Such an action would possibly empower such “good” Kurds even more, even as it would outrage Turkey, and would require agreement with the Syrian government along with the Russian Federation, which is unlikely. If Rojava achieved access to the sea, they would be an even more “effective” imperial proxy group since Western capitalist states could bring their military supplies to the coastline, rolling in heavy machinery, tanks, and maybe even set up a base of some type. It would be chaos and disaster for Syria of the highest proportions, helping in the disintegration of the region into a divided mess that could be easily manipulated by Western imperialists.

Is Rojava revolutionary?

Many have claimed that Rojava is “revolutionary.” One article by Wes Enzinna, an editor at the White hipster/”dudebro”/trash website, Vice Media, is an example of this. He writes that neither the UN, NATO, or the Syrian government recognize the “autonomous status” of the area, but says that this area, with over 4.6 million people by his count, enacts “radical direct democracy” on the streets, in his perception.13  He goes on to say that the territory is a “utopia” that is governed by an affiliate of the PKK, which includes, but is not limited to, six political parties, including the PYD and Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria (KDPS). Additionally, apart from the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), the Self-Defense Forces (HXP), YPG and all-female protection units, YPJ, protect the region from threats, with the latter two organizations, along with the PYD, major allies for the US in the region. Most interesting is the presence of Abdullah Öcalan, one of the PKK’s founding leaders, with his philosophy used throughout Rojava where he, as Mr. Enzinna claims, “looms as a Wizard-of-Oz-like presence.” It is worth pointing out that Mr. Öcalan, who has been hounded by the Turkish government since 1998, “repudiated the armed struggle and… the independence of Kurdistan,” with the PKK dropping its demand for an independent Kurdistan when he went into jail. He also asked Kurds to lay down their arms and went even further by declaring that there should be a “democratic union between Turks and Kurds.”14 According to reports, he clearly favors anarchist and anti-Marxist Murray Bookchin, Michel Foucault, French historian Fernand Braudel, and US sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein (the only one of the four with credibility), among a litany of other authors he read in prison, which is troublesome. Hence, he called for “democratic confederalism” in 2005, a model used in Rojava.

Mr. Enzinna isn’t the only one who makes such claims. Reuters‘s Benedetta Argentieri declared that the region values “gender equality,” especially in its military forces and has its “ideological foundations…laid by Abdullah Öcalan,” while others have declared there was an “ecological society” in place.15 Many examples of such perspectives, showing that the perception of  Rojava is “radical” and “liberatory” is widespread. Articles favoring this approach are in publications such as the Financial Times, the New York Times, The GuardianOpen Democracy, Slate, Dissent, Roar MagazineDeutsche WelleAFP, CeaseFire magazine, Telesur English, and Quartz.16 Writers have gone on to dub the region “a thriving experiment in direct democracy,” “a precious experiment in direct democracy,” “a remarkable democratic experiment,” “a revolution in consciousness,” and “a Kurdish region… ruled by militant feminist anarchists.” Others echo the same sentiment, calling it “a liberated area in the Middle East” (which is used in the title of this article), “political and cultural revolution,” “a social and political revolution,” “a participatory alternative to the tyrannical states of the region,” “the safest place in Syria,” and “a new radical society.”

Beyond this, AK Press’s A Small Key Can Open A Large Door: The Rojava Revolution, if it is to be believed at all, argues that the PYD launched a plan for the economy of the region which levies no taxes on the populace and abolished “traditional” private property such as “buildings, land, and infrastructure” but this did not extend to commodities such as automobiles, machines, electronics, and furniture. Even this book admits that only about a third of the worker councils have been set up in the region and that there is vagueness on how this region will relate to “other economies inside and outside of Syria.” After all,  much of the economic activity in the region comes from, as the book argues, “black market oil… sold outside the region” and as a result there are looming questions about the mechanics “trading relationships between other governments” if the embargo levied on them by the Turks is lifted.

By saying all of this about Rojava, some supporters may be cheering, saying that they were right all along. In fact, they can’t be more wrong. For one, European Parliamentarians are chummy with the PYD, who says that Turkey still supports Daesh, even as they claim that their meeting with legislators of Western capitalist states is not a form of propaganda. This political party, the PYD, was even left out of Syrian peace talks originally, but later was allowed in, with the Russians, in their illegal and unconscionable draft for the Syrian constitution, decentralized powers, which could be seen as “a potential concession aimed to gain the favor of the de-facto autonomous Kurdish cantons of northern Syria.”17

This is only the tip of the iceberg. The co-chair of the PYD, Mr. Saleh Muslim, has spoken at the British Parliament and has met with the Catalan parliament, where he declared that they are mainly at “war” with Daesh, not dismissing hostile actions toward the Syrian government. He further declared that they do not want to continue “under the old model of nation-state,” which he claims exists in Iraq and Syria, and said “we want to be part of Syria, but part of a democratic Syria.” If this doesn’t sound in line with imperialist goals, then I don’t know what is. It is also worth pointing out that the PYD attended a conference in Western Europe, in Belgium, eight Rojava legislators had a six-day visit to Japan, high-ranking YPJ and PYD officials talked to the Italian parliament and met senior Italian officials. Additionally, Rojava representatives attended a “conference in Athens… to mark the 17th anniversary of the capture of Abdullah Ocalan” and met with French representatives (along with the YPJ). The latter is important to note since the French have supported these “good” Kurds on the battlefield, just like Albania, and even want to open a cultural center in Rihava.

Then there’s the undeniable fact that Rojava has representative offices in numerous Western capitalist countries: Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, and France. Other news notes that the PYD has an office in Russia and has received support from Finland, which has begun “financing projects with development funds allocated to non-governmental organizations to strengthen Syrian Kurdish Region governance.” The only country that has rescinded diplomatic ties with Rojava is the Czech Republic, where a representative office opened in April but was shut down by December even as a story the previous month said that other than Albania, “the Czech Republic is one of the main sources of weapons flowing to the YPG via the US-led coalition against IS.” The representative office, as a story reported, was shut down because “it failed to win the recognition of Czech politicians” and the office seems to have faced problems related to security threats and diplomacy. Also, the “Turkish embassy in Prague [tried]… to undermine the activities of the office” even as Czech politicians see support of Rojava as a way to support an independent, autonomous Kurdistan, undermining the status of this office within the country.

The relationship between the “good” Kurds and Turkey is complicated. In 2013 and 2014, Turkey favorably received the PYD. However, as it currently stands, Turkey has an economic blockade on Rojava, as they attempt to diplomatically isolate them, opposes US support of the YPG, and supports anti-Rojava terrorists including Daesh.18 Turkey has gone even farther than just these measures. They’ve reportedly shelled Rojava, such as the settlements of Zur Maghar and Afrin, which has led to numerous civilians being killed, as Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) expand their military operations within Syria.19 In response, their actions were condemned not only by Germany but by Russia and neocon McCain. If Turkey engaged in such actions, they likely have public support. While Selahattin Demirtas, an imprisoned Kurdish leader of the “Kurdish-dominated People’s Democratic Party” or HDP, who has met with the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, and the Russian and US governments, has argued for countries to recognize Rojava, the Turkish public may think differently.20 Conspiracy theories purportedly dominate the Turkish political discourse and the Kurds, more often than not, are seen as part of a plot against the Turkish nation, leading to support for never-ending war against the PKK and seeming stagnation of political discourse.

Notes

  1. Other arguments ranged from claims that (1) Rojava wants some “degree of autonomy” while not fighting the Syrian government, (2) an independent Kurdistan could be anti-imperialist, (3) Rojava aren’t “disintegrating the region” but are rather “liberating people” from Daesh and will “unify with the Syrian government in the future,” that (4) such people are fighting “a battle for a better life way of living” while using available resources at their disposal, that (5) they have no choice but to ally with the West, (6) claims that Russia is imperialist, (7) that accepting weapons from the West forms “a positive relationship, in the hope for protection from Turkey,” and (8) that “Syria is by no means anti-imperialist.” The claims of Russia being imperialist is clearly incorrect by any reasonable measure, while saying that Syria is not anti-imperialist is a sentiment that hurts international solidarity. The one argument that accepting weapons from the West forms a “positive relationship” says it all.
  2. Missy Ryan, Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Karen DeYoung, “In blow to U.S.-Turkey ties, Trump administration approves plan to arm Syrian Kurds against Islamic State,” Washington Post, May 9, 2017.
  3. Editorial Board, “Fixing Syria, Step 1: Arm the Kurds,” Chicago Tribune, September 23, 2016; The Editors, “Arm the Kurds,” Bloomberg View, August 5, 2014; Antony J. Blinken, “To Defeat ISIS, Arm the Syrian Kurds,” New York Times op-ed, January 31, 2017; Ariel Ben Solomon, “Are Syrian Kurds the missing ingredient in the West’s recipe to defeat Islamic State?,” Jewish News Service (JNS), March 23, 2017. Also, the New Republic (“One Group Has Proven It Can Beat ISIS. So Why Isn’t the U.S. Doing More to Help Them?”), Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Ed Royce, The Telegraph (“Water is not enough, we must arm the Kurds”), New York Post (“It’s time to really arm the Kurds”), The Guardian (“Arming the Kurds may help break up Iraq – but the alternatives are worse”), National Review (“Recognize Kurdistan and Arm It, against ISIS in Northern Iraq”), among others, support arming the Kurds, specifically those who support US objectives, of course.
  4. Declaring a national emergency gives the President power to deal with “any unusual and extraordinary threat… to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.” Furthermore, such a declaration gives the President the power to “…investigate, regulate, or prohibit… any transactions… transfers of credit or payments… the importing or exporting of currency,” invalidate acquisitions by certain foreigners and even “confiscate any property” of foreigners coming from a country the US is at war with and are accused of planning, aiding, engaging, or authorizing hostilities against the United States.
  5. Louisa Loveluck and Karen DeYoung, “A Russian-backed deal on ‘safe zones’ for Syria leaves U.S. wary,” Washington Post, May 4, 2017; Associated Press, “Tensions rise after Turkish attack on Syrian Kurds,” Washington Post, April 26, 2017; Philip Issa, “Turkey threatens further strikes on US-allied Syrian Kurds,” Associated Press, April 30, 2017; Matthew Lee, “US criticizes Turkey for striking Kurds in Iraq, Syria,” Associated Press, April 25, 2017; Karen DeYoung and Dan Lamothe, “U.S.: Kurds will participate in some form in attack on Raqqa,” Washington Post, March 1, 2017; Matthew Lee, “US criticizes Turkey for striking Kurds in Iraq, Syria,” Associated Press, April 25, 2017; Karen DeYoung and Dan Lamothe, “U.S.: Kurds will participate in some form in attack on Raqqa,” Washington Post, March 1, 2017; Kareem Fahim and Adam Entous, “No decision yet on arming Kurds to fight Islamic State, Trump tells Turkish leader,” Washington Post, February 8, 2017.; Ishaan Tharoor, “The Russia-Turkey-U.S. tussle to save Syria will still get very messy,” Washington Post, May 4, 2017; Ishaan Tharoor, “What you need to know about Turkey and the Trump administration,” Washington Post, March 30, 2017;  Liz Sly, “Turkey’s Erdogan wants to establish a safe zone in the ISIS capital Raqqa,” Washington Post, February 13, 2017; Sarah El Deeb, “Turkey, Kurds, Russia, U.S. forces make up a confusing, violent pageant in Syria,” Chicago Tribune, March 11, 2017; Agence France-Presse, “Pentagon chief praises Kurdish fighters in Syria,” March 18, 2016.
  6. Liz Sly, “How two U.S. Marxists wound up on the front lines against ISIS,” Washington Post, April 1, 2017; Karen DeYoung and Kareem Fahim, “Turkey deports foreigners working with Syrian refugees,” Washington Post, April 26, 2017; Loveday Morris and Kareem Fahim, “Turkey expands strikes against Kurdish militants in Syria and Iraq,” Washington Post, April 25, 2017; Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Missy Ryan, “U.S.-led coalition accidentally bombs Syrian allies, killing 18,” Washington Post, April 13, 2017; Liz Sly, “With a show of Stars and Stripes, U.S. forces in Syria try to keep warring allies apart,” Washington Post, March 8, 2017; Karen DeYoung and Kareem Fahim, “As a new relationship is tested, Turkey keeps high hopes for Trump,” Washington Post, March 9, 2017; Orhan Coskun, Tulay Karadeniz and Tom Perry, “Turkey’s Syria plans face setbacks as Kurds see more U.S. support,” Reuters, March 9, 2017.
  7. BBC News, “Syria conflict: Kurds declare federal system,” March 17, 2016; Liz Sly and Karen DeYoung, “Ignoring Turkey, U.S. backs Kurds in drive against ISIS in Syria,” Washington Post, June 1, 2016.
  8. Nancy A. Youssef and Wladimir van Wilgenburg, “U.S. Troops 18 Miles From ISIS Capital,” The Daily Beast, May 26, 2016; Jiyar Gol, “Syria conflict: On the frontline in battle for IS-held Manbij,” BBC News, June 15, 2016.
  9. Suzan Fraser, “Turkey strikes Kurds in Iraq, Syria, drawing condemnation,” Associated Press, April 25, 2017; Martin Chulov and Fazel Hawramy, “Ever-closer ties between US and Kurds stoke Turkish border tensions,” The Guardian, May 1, 2017; Mahmoud Mourad and Ulf Laessing, “Iraq’s Shi’ite ruling coalition opposes Kurds’ independence referendum,” Reuters, April 20, 2017; Loveday Morris and Kareem Fahim, “Turkey expands strikes against Kurdish militants in Syria and Iraq,” Washington Post, April 25, 2017.
  10. Eric Walsh, “U.S. approves $295.6 million military equipment sale to Iraq: Pentagon,” Reuters, April 19, 2017; UPI, “US State Department approves arms sale for Peshmerga forces,” April 20, 2017; Tom O’Connor, “U.S. Military Set to Make $300 Million Deal to Arm Kurds Fighting ISIS in Iraq,” Newsweek, April 20, 2017.
  11. Karen Leigh, Noam Raydan, Asa Fitch, Margaret Coker, “Who Are The Kurds?,” Wall Street Journal, August 31, 2016; BBC News, “Germany to supply arms to Kurds fighting IS in Iraq,” September 1, 2014; Agence France-Presse, “Pentagon chief praises Kurdish fighters in Syria,” March 18, 2016.
  12. Mark Townsend, “Syria’s Kurds march on to Raqqa and the sea,” The Guardian, May 6, 2017.
  13. Wes Enzinna, “A Dream of Secular Utopia in ISIS’ Backyard,” New York Times Magazine, November 24, 2015.
  14. BBC News, “Kurdish rebel boss in truce plea,” September 28, 2006.
  15. Anna Lau, Erdelan Baran, and Melanie Sirinathsingh, “A Kurdish response to climate change,” OpenDemocracy, November 18, 2016; Benedetta Argentieri, “One group battling Islamic State has a secret weapon – female fighters,” Reuters blogs, February 3, 2015.
  16. Carrie Ross, “Power to the people: a Syrian experiment in democracy,” Financial Times, October 23, 2015; Carne Ross, “The Kurds’ Democratic Experiment,” The New York Times opinion, September 30, 2015. Ross is “a former British diplomat and the author of “The Leaderless Revolution: How Ordinary People Will Take Power and Change Politics in the 21st Century,” is working on a forthcoming documentary film, “The Accidental Anarchist.””; David Graeber, “Why is the world ignoring the revolutionary Kurds in Syria?,” The Guardian, October 8, 2014; Jo Magpie, “Regaining hope in Rojava,” Open Democracy, June 6, 2016; Michelle Goldberg, “American Leftists Need to Pay More Attention to Rojava,” Slate, November 25, 2015; Meredith Tax, “The Revolution in Rojava,” Dissent magazine, April 22, 2015; Evangelos Aretaios, “The Rojava revolution,” Open Democracy, March 15, 2015; New Compass, “Statement from the Academic Delegation to Rojava,” January 15, 2015; Jeff Miley and Johanna Riha, “Rojava: only chance for a just peace in the Middle East?,” Roar Magazine, March 3, 2015; Felix Gaedtke, “A Kurdish Spring in Syria,” Deutsche Welle, May 22, 2013; AFP, “Syrian Kurds give women equal rights, snubbing jihadists,” November 9, 2014; Margaret Owen, “Gender and justice in an emerging nation: My impressions of Rojava, Syrian Kurdistan,” CeaseFire magazine, February 11, 2014; Benedetta Argentieri, “These female Kurdish soldiers wear their femininity with pride,” Quartz, July 30, 2015; Marcel Cartier, “‘The Kurds’: Internationalists or Narrow Nationalists?,” Telesur English, April 20, 2017.
  17. John Irish, “Syrian Kurds point finger at Western-backed opposition,” Reuters, May 23, 2016.
  18. Meredith Tax, “The Rojava Model,” Foreign Affairs, Oct. 14, 2016; Graham A. Fuller, “How Can Turkey Overcome Its Foreign Policy Mess?,” LobeLog, February 19, 2016; David L. Phillips, “Research Paper: ISIS-Turkey Links,” Huffington Post, September 8, 2016; Natasha Bertrand, “Senior Western official: Links between Turkey and ISIS are now ‘undeniable’,” Business Insider, July 28, 2015.
  19. AFP, “Turkey accused of shelling Kurdish-held village in Syria,” The Guardian, July 27, 2015; Christopher Phillips, “Turkey’s Syria Intervention: A Sign of Weakness Not Strength,” Newsweek, September 22, 2016.
  20. Ishaan Tharoor, “The U.S. should accept a Syrian Kurdish region, says Turkish opposition leader,” Washington Post, May 2, 2016.

Leftist Critic is an independent radical, writer, and angry citizen and can be reached at leftistcritic@linuxmail.org or on twitter, @leftistcritic.

May 20, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

Iran imposes new sanctions on US-linked companies

RT | May 20, 2017

Iran has sanctioned nine US-linked companies in response to American sanctions over the Middle East country’s ballistic missile program. While Iran’s re-elected president Rouhani said the country was ready for dialogue, the US came up with prerequisites to start it.

Nine more US-linked businesses, organizations and individuals are put in the sanctions list, created in March. The new list of sanctions is dated May 18, with AP reporting that it was put online on Saturday.

The sanctions mean that Iran could seize local assets of the listed organizations and deny their employees entry to the country. The first batch of sanctions were announced back in March in response to actions of the Trump administration, which sanctioned more than two dozen Iran-linked people and companies in February in retaliation for a ballistic missile test.

Tehran’s actions followed US President Donald Trump’s decision on Wednesday to renew the sanctions waiver maintaining the Iranian nuclear deal, but also to impose sanctions against two Iranian defense officials and a company allegedly linked to the missile program.

Iran’s re-elected President Hassan Rouhani vowed Saturday to continue reforms and said that the country was open for international dialogue.

“Our nation’s message in the election was clear: Iran’s nation chose the path of interaction with the world, away from violence and extremism,” Rouhani said.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke of his vision of Iran’s dialogue “with the rest of the world.”

He made it clear the US would like to see an end to Iran’s missile program, as well as what he described as Iran’s role in supporting “destabilizing forces that exist in this region.”

Tillerson also called on Tehran to restore “the rights of Iranians to freedom of speech, to freedom of organization, so Iranians can live the life they deserve.”

“We hope that if Rouhani wanted to change Iran’s relationship with the rest of the world, those are the things he could do,” Tillerson said Saturday while speaking at a joint news conference with his Saudi counterpart in Riyadh.

In April, Tillerson described Iran as “the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism” in a letter to Congress. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif then said in response that instead of repeating accusations against Iran, the US should fulfil its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal.

May 20, 2017 Posted by | Economics | , , | 1 Comment

Authoritarianism in Venezuela? A Reply to Gabriel Hetland

By Lucas Koerner | Venezuelanalysis | May 19, 2017

Venezuela is once again dominating international headlines as violent opposition protests bent on toppling the elected Maduro government enter their seventh week. The demonstrations have claimed to date at least 54 lives since April 4, surpassing the previous wave of violent anti-government protests in 2014, known as “the Exit”. However, this time around, the unrest coincides with a severe economic downturn and a transformed geopolitical landscape defined by the return of the right in Brazil and Argentina as well as an even more bellicose regime in Washington.

Meanwhile, the international outcry at this latest violent effort to oust the Chavista government has been far more muffled than the last time.

With the notable exception of an open letter by LASA members, a UNAC/BAP joint statement,  and other smaller protest actions, the US left has been largely passive vis-a-vis both the Trump administration’s escalating intervention against Venezuela as well as the systematic media blackout, preferring silence to active solidarity with Chavismo.

In this environment, some leftist academics have publicly broken with the Maduro administration over its response to the country’s current political and economic crisis.

In a recent piece for NACLA*, University of Albany Assistant Professor Gabriel Hetland parts ways with the Bolivarian government, citing concerns over Maduro’s “authoritarian” slide.

“Yet, while previous claims of Venezuela’s authoritarianism have had little merit, this is no longer the case,” he writes.

While we deeply respect Professor Hetland’s critical contributions to the debate on Venezuela, we at Venezuelanalysis ** – a collective of journalists and activists who at one point or another have lived, studied, and/or worked in Venezuela – firmly reject this charge of authoritarianism on both analytical and political grounds.

Setting the record straight

Hetland cites a number of recent actions of the Venezuelan government to bolster his claim, including the Venezuelan Supreme Court’s (TSJ) alleged “dissolving” of the opposition-held National Assembly (AN), the “cancel[ation]” of the recall referendum, the postponing of “municipal and regional elections that should have occurred in 2016”, and the TSJ’s blocking of the AN’s legislative activity in 2016.

There are of course a number of serious problems with this account.

To begin, several elements of this narrative are misleadingly presented, if not all-together factually inaccurate.

First of all, as Venezuelanalysis reported at the time, the TSJ’s March 29 decisions did not “dissolve” the Venezuelan National Assembly as was almost uniformly reported in the mainstream press. Rather, the rulings sought to temporarily authorize the judiciary to take on pertinent legislative functions, which in this particular case meant approving a pressing joint venture agreement between Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA and its Russian counterpart, Rosneft, which was critical for the former’s solvency. The ruling – which was based on article 336.7 of the Venezuelan constitution – provoked a rift within Chavismo, with the current and former attorney generals lining up on opposite sides of the constitutional divide. One can certainly criticize the since-reversed decision on constitutional and political grounds, but to present it as a “dissolution” of the parliament is just disingenuous.

This brings us to the question of the Supreme Court’s blocking of the opposition-majority legislature in 2016. It is undeniable that the TSJ did in fact strike down three of the four laws the AN managed to approve last year. However, it takes two to tango and Hetland severely understates the opposition’s own role in this protracted institutional standoff. It’s important to note that the AN did not “act beyond its authority” only “in some cases”, as Hetland describes.

From quite literally the moment that the new AN was sworn-in in January 2016, the body explicitly declared war on the Bolivarian institutional order crafted by Chavismo, with AN head Henry Ramos Allup promising to oust Maduro “within six months” – a blatantly unconstitutional threat against a sitting president. A sampling of the legislation pursued by the National Assembly in 2016 includes a law to privatize Venezuela’s public housing program, a law to return expropriated lands and enterprises to their former owners, a law forcing the executive to accept humanitarian aid into the country, the infamous Amnesty Law, as well as a constitutional amendment retroactively shortening the presidential term by two years. We can add to this list the opposition’s attempted parliamentary coup, in which it declared that Maduro had “abandoned his post” first in October and again this past January – which Hetland likewise neglects to acknowledge. Nor does he mention the reason for the legislature’s current “null” status, namely the opposition’s refusal to unseat three of its lawmakers from Amazonas state currently under investigation for alleged vote-buying in flagrant violation of the high court. Again, one may still criticize the TSJ’s blockage of the AN, but to understate the parliament’s systematic efforts to overthrow the Bolivarian government by any means necessary is quite misleading.

Hetland similarly omits the opposition’s own role in the suspension of the recall referendum (RR) process. As we noted, the opposition-held parliament came into office with the objective of overthrowing Maduro “within six months” – a goal evidently incompatible with the RR, which takes a minimum of eight months. Indeed, the RR was just one of the strategies in the opposition’s four-pronged plan to oust Maduro unveiled in March 2016, which also included the aforementioned constitutional amendment, a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution (which the opposition now opposes), and heating up the streets to force Maduro’s resignation. As a result of the opposition’s own internecine divisions, it delayed in beginning the RR and made serious procedural errors, such as collecting 53,658 fraudulent signatures, which gave the government a pretext to indefinitely stall the process in the courts. There is no doubt that the Maduro administration dragged its feet on the RR process knowing full well it would likely lose, but this was hardly the one-sided drama presented by Hetland.

Lastly, the National Electoral Council (CNE) did in fact postpone the regional elections scheduled for last year, citing logistical conflicts with the RR process, a move which is indefensible on constitutional and political grounds. However, it’s worth noting that there is a precedent for such a delay: the local elections slated for December 2004 were similarly postponed until August 2005 on account of the recall referendum against then President Chávez the year before. Hetland passes over this important detail in his rush to indict Venezuela’s democratic credentials.

Moreover, while it’s perfectly legitimate to criticize the Bolivarian government for delaying the governors’ races, municipal elections are a different story. Local elections are scheduled for 2017, meaning that they can be held any time before the close of the year. In suggesting that the government has postponed local elections, Hetland commits yet another factual error that serves to inflate his largely ideological case for the Maduro administration’s “creeping authoritarianism”, as we shall see below.

Fetishizing liberal democracy

Beyond these factual errors and misrepresentations, the main problem with Hetland’s piece is his implicit notion of “authoritarianism”, which he at no point takes the time to actually define.

Without going extensively into the genealogy of this term, it’s key to remember that authoritarianism is hardly a politically neutral concept.

As Hetland correctly observes, the charge of authoritarianism was dubiously leveled against the Chávez administration and other “pink tide” governments who were excoriated by Western commentators and political scientists for daring to challenge the hegemony of (neo)liberal capitalist representative democracy.

Indeed throughout the last decade, political scientists led by former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Casteñeda have distinguished between a “good” reformist, liberal left epitomized by Brazil’s Lula Da Silva that is willing to play ball with the Washington and transnational capital and a “bad” radical, populist left embodied by Hugo Chávez, which has opened up the liberal representative floodgates to direct mass participation in democratic governance.

As Sara Motta underlines, this binary is deeply colonial in nature: the “mature” and Westernized “good-left” has learned from the alleged failures of revolutionary Marxism and embraced incremental reform, while the “bad-left” remains mired in the clientelism and tribal authoritarianism of the “pre-modern” past, rendering it hostile to liberal democracy.

This “good-left”/“bad-left” dichotomy is of course nothing new, amounting to a minor aesthetic rehashing of the “revolutionary”/“democratic” distinction applied to the Latin American left in the wake of the Cuban Revolution, which in turn is founded on the classic “civilization” versus “barbarism” divide.

Hetland, in lieu of questioning the liberal ideological criterion behind this colonial binary, preserves the distinction, announcing that the Maduro government has passed over into the dark realm of authoritarianism:

By cancelling the recall referendum, suspending elections, and inhibiting opposition politicians from standing for office, the Venezuelan government is systematically blocking the ability of the Venezuelan people to express themselves through electoral means. It is hard to see what to call this other than creeping authoritarianism.

In other words, “authoritarianism” for Hetland seems to amount to the quashing of proceduralist liberal democratic norms, including most notably separation of powers, threatening the political rights of the country’s right-wing opposition.

What we get from this formalist approach is a sort of Freedom House-style checklist in which the pluses and minuses of global South regimes (freedom of speech, press, etc.) are statically weighed and definitive moral judgement concerning “democratic quality” are handed down. Venezuela is still not yet a “full-scale authoritarian regime,” Hetland tells us, “given the opposition’s significant access to traditional and social media and substantial ability to engage in anti-government protest.” In this point, Hetland’s conclusion is virtually indistinguishable from that of mainstream Latin American studies, which has long invented convoluted monikers such as “participatory competitive authoritarianism” to characterize the Bolivarian government.

The trouble with this perspective is that it ends up reifying these so-called authoritarian practices, casting them as the cause – together with the opposition’s regime change efforts – of Venezuela’s current crisis rather than a symptom of the underlying correlation of forces.

The Maduro administration’s alleged steamrolling of certain liberal democratic norms – particularly the postponement of regional elections – is undoubtedly quite concerning, precisely because it evidences the catastrophic impasse in the Bolivarian revolutionary process.

We at Venezuelanalysis have long been critical of the Bolivarian government’s top-down institutional power plays to contain the opposition’s efforts to oust Maduro, which we view as a conservative attempt to maintain the status quo in lieu of actually mobilizing the masses of people from below to break the current deadlock and resolve the crisis on revolutionary terms.

In this vein, we have critiqued those tendencies within the Venezuelan state which we see as consolidating the power of corrupt reformist “Boli-bourgeois” class fractions in the bureaucracy and armed forces, including direct military control over imports, the de-facto liberalization of prices, reduced social spending coupled with draconian debt servicing, the Orinoco Mining Arc, a dubious but since-modified party registration process, and a conservative turn in anti-crime policy.

Yet Hetland is strangely silent regarding these reformist retreats and regressions over the past four years, which for all intents and purposes are far more serious than many of the above “authoritarian” abuses he describes.

It is precisely here that the charge of “authoritarianism” betrays its liberal ideological bias: by prioritizing the procedural violations affecting the bourgeois right-wing opposition, Hetland renders invisible the underlying dynamics of class warfare brutally impacting the popular classes.

Therefore, contra Hetland, the problem is not that liberal democratic norms have been undercut per se, but rather that the revolutionary construction of alternative institutions of radical grassroots democracy – the “communal state” in Chávez’s terms – has come up against decisive structural roadblocks.

Here we must be unequivocal: liberal democracy is not absolute nor universal, and its relation to revolutionary processes is always mediated by context. To impose these norms on the Cuban Revolution, for instance, in its context of genocidal imperial siege is the height of absurdity and political irresponsibility. Given these circumstances, Cuba’s model of revolutionary democracy – despite all its faults and limitations – is no less legitimate than other democratic socialist projects that have made strategic use of elements of liberal democracy, such as Chile and Nicaragua in the 70s and 80s or Venezuela and Bolivia today.

The Bolivarian process is, however, fundamentally different, as it is premised on an electoral road to socialism in which the existing bourgeois democratic order is approached as a strategic space of counter-hegemonic struggle. In this context, the suspension of certain liberal rights such as elections or specific opposition freedoms would only be acceptable under exceptional circumstances in which the Bolivarian government were actually taking revolutionary measures to resolve the current crisis and commanded unquestioned legitimacy among its social bases.

Despite the undeniable spiral of political and economic violence driven by the opposition, Venezuela is unfortunately not going through an equivalent of a “special period” insofar as the leadership of the party and state has thus far failed to go on the offensive against endemic corruption and take the fight to the local and transnational capitalist enemy as was the case during crucial revolutionary turning points in Russia, China, and Cuba.

Given this reality, the message coming from some sectors of Chavismo that there can be no elections under conditions of warfare – a legitimate argument in other contexts including Nazi-besieged Britain – is questionable at best. Nonetheless, this counterfactual is useful insofar as it demonstrates that liberal democracy is a wholly inadequate yardstick for evaluating revolutionary processes, confounding far more than it clarifies, as in the case of Hetland’s critique of “authoritarianism” in Venezuela.

Throw them all out?

In this diagnosis of causes of the current crisis, our position coincides with that of the vast majority of Venezuelan left-wing movements whose chief grievance is hardly the litany of “authoritarian” practices against the right-wing opposition enumerated by Hetland, but, on the contrary, the reformist and at times outright counter-revolutionary policies being pursued by the Maduro government.

The same is true for Venezuela’s popular classes – the social base of Chavismo – who don’t particularly care that the Supreme Court has blocked the National Assembly and the president has been ruling by emergency economic decree since February 2016. According to independent pollster Hinterlaces, around 70 percent of Venezuelans negatively evaluate the opposition-controlled parliament, while 61 percent have little faith that a future opposition government will address the country’s deep economic problems. Rather, the majority of Venezuelans want the Maduro administration to remain in power and resolve the current economic crisis. Their discontent flows not from Maduro’s use of emergency powers – contrary to the international media narrative – but rather from his failure to use them to take decisive actions to deepen the revolution in lieu of granting further concessions to capital.

Despite the setbacks, retreats, and betrayals that have characterized the past four years since the death of Chávez, the mood among the Venezuelan masses is not a uniform rejection of Venezuela’s entire political establishment as Hetland suggests in a sweeping generalization:

If any slogan captures the current mood of the popular classes living in Venezuela’s barrios and villages it is likely this: Que se vayan todos. Throw them all out.

While Chavismo has undoubtedly bled significant support over the past five years and the ranks of independents, or ni-nis, has swollen to over 40 percent of the population , the PSUV remarkably remains the country’s most popular party, actually increasing its support from 27 to 35 percent since January. Similarly, Maduro still has the approval of approximately 24 percent of Venezuelans, making him more popular than the presidents of Brazil, Mexico, and Chile – a fact consistently suppressed by international corporate media. These poll numbers are nothing short of incredible in view of the severity of the current economic crisis ravaging the country, speaking to the partial efficacy of some of the government’s measures such as the CLAPs as well as the opposition’s utter failure to present any alternative program.

Likewise, despite growing disillusionment with the government and hints at a possible rupture, the fact is that the overwhelming majority of Venezuela’s social movements and left-wing political parties continue to back Maduro.

What’s more is that this left unity in support of the Bolivarian government has only hardened in the face of the ongoing opposition onslaught and in anticipation of the National Constituent Assembly to be held in the coming months.

However baffling on the surface, this staunch defense of the Maduro administration actually makes perfect sense for at least two reasons.

First, as any Chavista who has lived through the last six weeks of right-wing terror can attest to, the choice between the continuity of Chavismo in power and an opposition regime is not a matter of mere ideological preference – it’s a question of survival, as there is no predicting the extent of the political and structural violence the opposition would unleash if they manage to take Miraflores. This is in no way to deny or downplay the fallout of the current economic crisis, for which the government bears a great deal of responsibility, but there is no doubt that an opposition government would take this economic war on the poor to new levels of neoliberal savagery.

Second, the existence of the Bolivarian government embodies the lingering possibility of transforming the inherited bourgeois petro-state as part of the transition to 21st Century socialism. While there is cause for skepticism about the real possibilities of pushing forward the democratization and decolonization of the Venezuelan state in this conjuncture, there has been an outpouring of grassroots support for the National Constituent Assembly which could serve as a vehicle to retake the revolutionary offensive and institutionalize radical demands from below.

This broad-based consensus of critical support for the government on the part of Venezuela’s left stands sharply at odds with Hetland’s “plague on both your houses approach”, which, in Steve Ellner’s terms, ends up “placing opposition and Chavista leaders in the same sack” as equally undesirable alternatives.

While there is indeed tremendous anger and frustration with the government – which may in fact translate to a crushing electoral defeat for Chavismo in the next elections – the prevailing sentiment among much of Venezuela’s popular classes in the face of the opposition’s present reign of terror remains “no volverán” (they shall not return).

The role of solidarity

All of this brings us to the position of international solidarity activists with respect to Venezuela.

We wholeheartedly agree with Hetland that it is the duty of each and every self-respecting leftist and progressive to “reject any and all calls for imperialist interventions aimed at ‘saving’ Venezuela”.

Nevertheless, while anti-interventionism is urgently necessary, this begs the question, with whom are we supposed to be in solidarity?

Hetland calls on us to stand with “the majority of Venezuelans who are suffering at the hands of a vengeful, reckless opposition, and an incompetent, unaccountable government.”

The end result of such a “plague on both your houses” approach is a refusal to take a side in this struggle – in a word, neutrality. This posture flows naturally from Hetland’s liberal framework of authoritarianism, which necessarily posits the Western intellectual as a disembodied arbiter – occupying the Cartesian standpoint of the “eye of God” in Enrique Dussel’s terms – uniquely capable of objectively weighing the democratic virtues and deficits of Third World regimes.

In contrast, we at Venezuelanalysis stand unconditionally with Venezuela’s Bolivarian-socialist movement, which at this conjuncture continues to critically support the Maduro administration.

We take this stance not out of a willful blindness to the Bolivarian government’s many faults and betrayals, but because we (and particularly our writers on the ground) know that for a great many Chavistas the choice between radicalizing the revolution and right-wing restoration is, quite literally, a matter of life and death.

A version of this article was submitted to NACLA, but no initial response was received. The editor elected to go ahead and publish at venezuelanalysis.com in the interest of a timely response. UPDATE: NACLA did ultimately respond to our submission on the afternoon of May 19, but by that time, the article was already published. 

** Written by Lucas Koerner on behalf of Venezuelanalysis’ writing and multimedia staff as well as VA founder Greg Wilpert.

May 20, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Harvard Study Shows Unprecedented Anti-Trump Media Bias — Except For When He Bombed Syria

By Chris Menahan – InformationLiberation – May 19, 2017

A new Harvard study published on Thursday found unprecedented levels of anti-Trump bias from the major media in Trump’s first 100 days in office, with NBC, CBS and CNN generating over 91 percent negative coverage.

The Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy analysed news reports from the print editions of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, as well as “the main newscasts of CBS, CNN, Fox News, and NBC, and three European news outlets (The UK’s Financial Times and BBC, and Germany’s ARD).”

Here’s what they found:

– President Trump dominated media coverage in the outlets and programs analyzed, with Trump being the topic of 41 percent of all news stories—three times the amount of coverage received by previous presidents. He was also the featured speaker in nearly two-thirds of his coverage.

– Republican voices accounted for 80 percent of what newsmakers said about the Trump presidency, compared to only 6 percent for Democrats and 3 percent for those involved in anti-Trump protests.

– European reporters were more likely than American journalists to directly question Trump’s fitness for office.

– Trump has received unsparing coverage for most weeks of his presidency, without a single major topic where Trump’s coverage, on balance, was more positive than negative, setting a new standard for unfavorable press coverage of a president.

– Fox was the only news outlet in the study that came close to giving Trump positive coverage overall, however, there was variation in the tone of Fox’s coverage depending on the topic.

Charts:

Note, the one week he got the most positive coverage was week 12 when he attacked Syria and started ditching all his campaign promises and acting like he was being blackmailed. Since going rogue again and firing Comey the coverage has no doubt gotten worse than ever.

The tone of coverage was overwhelmingly positive for his Tomahawk missile strike on Syria:

Fox News is not much better than other networks on a lot of issues and as we know they’ve recently shifted even further to the left.

This is death by a thousand paper cuts and on top of it all the deep state is sabotaging Trump’s every move.

If you really look at these polls, it’s clear the only way he could get positive news coverage is if he came out for open borders and amnesty, then launched a full-scale ground invasion of Syria and started a war with Russia.

May 20, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | 1 Comment

Turkey steps up training militants in northern Syria: Report

Press TV – May 20, 2017

Turkey has reportedly resumed an extensive campaign aimed at training the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) militants in northern Syria, purportedly to fight Kurdish forces and Daesh Takfiri terrorists.

Turkish special forces are training more FSA troops in using mortars, rocket launchers and machine guns, Anadolu news agency reported.

“It is no longer the old FSA in the field but a new FSA being born. These FSA members in training will show their difference in possible future operations,” the report quoted an unidentified military official as saying.

The report comes after Turkey declared in March an end to the first phase of its so-called military operation along with the FSA against Daesh and People’s Protection Units (YPG) Kurdish fighters in northern Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the country would retaliate through a cross-border operation if the YPG poses a security threat.

Turkey deems the YPG a terror organization and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been engaged in a three-decade-long insurgency against Ankara in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast.

On Friday, Anadolu cited security sources as saying that the Turkish military had stepped up presence along its southern border and dispatched armored military vehicles and munitions to the area to respond to potential attacks by the YPG and PKK.

The Turkish military units and intelligence are currently monitoring Kurdish-controlled Afrin, Tel Abyad and Qamishli in northern Syria and the Iraqi border.

Since July 2015, Turkish air force has been carrying out operations against the PKK positions in the country’s troubled southeastern border region as well as in northern Iraq and neighboring Syria.

In early December 2015, Turkey deployed a contingent of its troops to the Bashiqa military camp north of Mosul, claiming that the move had been earlier coordinated with Iraqi officials. Baghdad swiftly denied the claim and ever since has called on Ankara to immediately withdraw its forces from the camp. Turkey, however, has so far refused to pull out its forces from the Iraqi soil.

In August 2016, Turkey also began a major military intervention in Syria, sending tanks and warplanes across the border, claiming that its military campaign was aimed at pushing Daesh from Turkey’s border with Syria and stopping the advance of Kurdish forces. Damascus denounces the operation as a breach of its sovereignty.

Ankara in late March announced the end of its military operations in Syria, but did not rule out the possibility of yet another military intervention in war-torn Syria.

May 20, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Reflections on the counter-revolution in France

Image by Andrija Vukovic
By Frank* | OffGuardian | May 20, 2017

One of the more significant features of the recent French Presidential election was the widespread predictability of the outcome. It was taken for granted that the establishment, cardboard cut-out, hologram candidate – Macron – representing the alt-centre, would win the final electoral contest against Madame Le Pen by a comfortable margin; and so it turned out, Macron winning by 66% to Le Pen’s 34% of votes cast. Okay, there was a widespread abstention amounting to 25% of the registered electorate, a 10% spoliation of ballot papers, and, in addition, tactical voting against Le Pen in the second-round run-off.

This left about 25% of the French electorate, those overwhelmingly petit-bourgeois and miscellaneous air-heads, who voted for Marcon rather than against Le Pen, but who had scant ideas of what Macron’s programme for France would entail. This wasn’t surprising, however, since he was simply a continuity candidate who offered nothing remotely significant in policy terms other than more of the same.

So, a candidate who has not been positively endorsed by 75% of the French electorate, and who seemingly has nothing to offer other than the continuation of wrecking ball neo-liberalism gets to be President of France for the next 5 years.

Upon consideration, it seems, the moral of the story is that the hard left, and hard right will continue to be shut out of power by the hard centre-right, centre-left, liberal coalition. This prompts a possibility of something quite heretical: to wit, is it possible for someone like Le Pen to form a working coalition, or at least an understanding, with someone like Melenchon?

After all the economic and foreign policies seem virtually identical. But understandably, perhaps, the left has historically been loath to consider such a course of action. Moreover, we have heard all the fascist anti-capitalist rhetoric before: The economic programme of the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers’ Party – Nazis) particularly that emanating from the leftist elements in the SA (stormtroopers) and luminaries such as Ernst Rohm, the Strasser Brothers and Gottfried Feder, the party’s leading economist, were clear enough. As early as 1919 Anton Drexler opined that:

Toiling Germany is the victim of greedy western power’’ quoted by Daniel Guerin in Fascism and Big Business

This was an obvious allusion to the Treaty of Versailles, a conclusion which was shared by J.M.Keynes in The Economic Consequences of the Peace’’ (1919). Drexler goes on

The German workers must realize that never before enslaved as they are today by foreign capitalism … the struggle for liberation which the proletariat is carrying on as the most oppressed section of an oppressed nation is a civil war that we are no longer waging against ourselves but against the world bourgeoisie. (op.cit).

This was a view seconded by Gregor Strasser:

German industry and economy is in the hands of international finance capital; it means an end of all possibility of social liberation; it means the end of all dreams of a socialist Germany … We young Germans of the war generation, we ardent socialists, are waging a fight against capitalism and imperialism incarnated in the Versailles treaty.’’ (op.cit)

All very left-wing and stirring stuff. But the advertised National Socialist revolution never arrived. It was ruthlessly crushed by Hitler’s Pretorian Guard – the SS – during the Night of the Long Knives July 1934. Hitler was only stringing along the SA for his own purposes of winning the battle of ideas and the battle of the Streets. When he had achieved this goal, the SA became expendable.

The left would, therefore, be prudent not to recognise the radical opportunism of fascism.

Warning heeded.

But in what sense is Le Pen and the FN fascistic? Particularly, since the term has become increasingly redundant. In policy terms, she seems to be a leading part of the anti-systemic revolt against globalization. All well and good if this is taken at face value. Moreover, there seems little imperialist element in her programme, unlike, Macron, the globalist neo-con who many of the left saw fit to vote for to stop Le Pen. Le Pen’s FN is not an aggressive movement directed at other nations and peoples living beyond its borders but essentially a defensive movement fighting for the right of any nation for self-determination which is under attack by the globalist elites who control political-economic unions like the EU. Talking of Nazis, it should be borne in mind that the neo-cons – the military wing of the globalization project – have nurtured and protected their own brand of bona fide fascism in Ukraine and the Baltics.

The rise of neo-nationalism in the globalization era, as a movement for national sovereignty, has nothing to with the rise of what we may call ‘Euro-fascism’ … in the Baltics and Ukraine. The unifying element of these euro-fascists is that they implicitly or explicitly accept the New World Order (WTO) of neoliberal globalization. If not in their official ideology then at least in their practice. This is the case for instance of Ukrainian Euro-fascists (Svoboda, Right Sector Patriots of the Ukraine and the Azov Regiment) who were massacring people in the Maidan and in Odessa under the flag of the EU, sometimes juxtaposed to Swastikas! And were fully backed and funded (still are) by the west, i.e, the EUSA.’’ The New World Order in Action – Takis Fotopoulos)

The Azov Battalion. Note the yellow flags with the wartime German Waffen SS ‘Wolfsangel’ insignia in front of Stepan Bandera Statue

Please note flags of the Azov Battalion, centre, NATO left, and Nazi, right.

However much of the Left seems to have missed these political nuances and still imagine that they are living in the era of the Popular Front of the 1930s. This was cogently pointed out by Aidan Obrien in Counterpunch :

“Most western progressives however are stuck in the 1930s. They see Hitler everywhere. They’re still fighting the Spanish Civil War! Their advice – the advice of Noam Chomsky in America and Yanis Varoufakis in Europe – is to always follow the example of the 1930s and form something like a united front against fascism. In today’s elections that means joining up with the liberals to keep out the extremists.

But who are the extremists? Who are today’s psychopathic killers and psychopathic slave-drivers? Since 2002 it has been the advocates of liberalism. The fascists don’t even come close. The forces of “individual freedom” have given us the on-going holocaust in the Middle East. And the champions of the “free market” have more respect for Guantanamo Bay prisoners than they do for the international working class.

And who are the racists? Right before our eyes we are seeing one genocide and seeing the preparation for two or three more. The Arabs – this instant – are being burnt alive. And the Koreans, Russians and Chinese are next in line. And the Africans and Latin Americans? No one cares anymore about those sub-humans! The fascists are not responsible for this “divide, kill, starve and rule” global agenda. On the contrary it is the lovable liberals who are masterminding this – the final solution to the White Man’s Burden.’’

All very true. The point that must also be made was that both German and Italian Nazism/Fascism were both expansionist, imperialist doctrines which took war and conquest as a given policy. Hitler’s ‘Lebensraum’ and military expansion to the east was openly declared in Mein Kampf, and Mussolini’s military (mis)adventures in both East Africa and the Balkans were a confirmation of the genuine fascism of both dictators. To repeat, however, Le Pen has publicly stated that she wishes to withdraw from NATO, which sounds very Gaullist, compared to the continued and militant presence in France of NATO and its globalist backed geopolitical expansionist policies in eastern Europe. So, who is the imperialist warmonger, Macron and the neo-cons, or Le Pen and her neo-Gaullism? Rhetorical question really.

What would seem to be the great stumbling block to any rapprochement between left and right against the mutual class enemy, which might be formal or informal, is the knotty question of immigration. Large scale immigration into Europe has been a function of two factors.

  1. The immigration from eastern Europe to western Europe which has been a function of Eastern European integration into the EU (and often into NATO).
  2. The forced migration from the war zones in the middle-east and north Africa into southern Europe as the landing stage.

In terms of migration from Eastern to Western Europe there has taken place population declines in every Eastern European country with the exception of Czech Republic, Slovakia and Russia (although Russia is a special case). This is due in part to the economic collapse of countries such as Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania that have given rise to large scale migration, but also due to a declining birth-rate, and increasing death rates, which of course is related to the economic situation in these states.

The population of Lithuania has fallen by 12% since 2006, Latvia also by 12%, Ukraine by 9% (although this was due to migration to Poland and refugees seeking safety in Russia) Romania 7%, Hungary 8.5%, Bulgaria 6%, Poland 1%. As a result, there has been a wave of economic migrants from the old Soviet sphere of influence into the west. This was one of the principal outcomes of the removal of national borders and free movement of labour under, along with free movement of capital and commodities enshrined in the EU Constitution. Between 1990 and 2003 an average of about 60,000 migrants came to the UK each year; between 2004 and 2012 the figure rose to 170,000 the 2011 census put the number of UK residents from Poland alone at 650,000.

Secondly there was the unscheduled mass movement of non-European refugees from a vast conflict area stretching from Nigeria and Mali, through the middle-east to Afghanistan (MENA). This of course has been the result of the ‘war on terror’ carried out by the US and its euro vassals which has wrecked country after country in the MENA.

The first migration wave was not accidental; it was formulated and enabled by globalist elites under the banner of free-movement; free-movement of labour, capital and commodities. This of course will have the intended effect of a downward harmonisation on wages, working conditions, corporation tax, welfare spending, privatisation and deregulation. Sovereign nations will be disempowered, and global multinationals already thus enabled, will be even further empowered by trade treaties such as TTIP and/or Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA).

The second wave of unauthorised migration came from MENA and complemented the first, only under banner of the Refugee crisis.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the sticky finger prints of George – Mr Colour Revolution – Soros, have been all over this wave of humanity. According to Associated Press :

Soros to invest $500 million to Help Refugees and Migrants’’ ABC News, 20/09/2016.

This is a dual crisis engineered by the globalists in Brussels and the neo-cons in Washington its object being to destabilise Europe and colonize the MENA.

As Le Pen commented:

Globalization is a barbarity; it is the country which should limit its abuses and regulate it (globalization). Today the world is in the hands of multinational corporations, and large international finance … immigration weighs down on wages whilst the minimum wage is now becoming the maximum wage.’’

Unfortunately, the centre-left no longer uses this sort of rhetoric – or indeed practise – and instead covertly, and sometimes even openly, supports the globalist agenda, with occasional reservations of course. What is usually trotted out is the well-worn ‘there is no alternative’ (TINA) argument which is assumed to be unanswerable. Change the EU from the inside! Don’t overthrow the Bourbons, reform them! This in fact is the response of the collaborationist.

No wonder most members of the old working class have abandoned their ‘’natural’ leaders (Labour and Green parties) and even their own trade union leaders (apart from a few honourable exceptions) … even when their immediate motive is the fight against immigration, indirectly their fight is against globalization, as they realize that it is the opening of all markets, including labour markets … which is the direct cause of their unemployment or low-wage employment.’’ (Fotopoulos – Ibid.)

We live in enigmatic times: the left has moved right and the right has moved left. Strange alliances seem to be forming, new pathways emerging. The real left must reconfigure its theories and practice to oppose the New World Order – it is imperative. In the words of Lenin and before him Chernyshevsky – ‘What Is To Be Done?’’

With apologies to Edmund Burke for the paraphrase

May 20, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

New Holocaust Claims Against Assad Are Based On Old, Debunked Propaganda

By Brandon Turbeville | Activist Post | May 17, 2017

As the propaganda coming from Washington regresses to an even more infantile level each year, so does the danger of that propaganda being used to justify a greater American military involvement in the Syrian crisis which Washington itself created. Always ready to invoke the memories of Adolf Hitler, Nazis, and the Holocaust at every opportunity, the U.S. State Department is now claiming that not only is Bashar al-Assad controlling massive prisons where mostly innocent civilians are starved and tortured, but that he is operating crematoriums where the bodies of victims are destroyed, thus cheating the moral West out of having any actual evidence of Assad’s “crimes against humanity.”

This new round of propaganda is based upon the debunked Amnesty International report released in February, 2017, entitled “Human Slaughterhouse: Mass Hangings And Extermination At Sednaya Prison, Syria.” The report contained great writing but it was totally devoid of actual evidence. In fact, the only evidence contained in those pages was satellite photos that showed a building that AI claimed was a prison. The photos thus showed the same thing that any American could have provided had they taken a picture of an American public school.

Still, the propaganda report was full of accounts gathered from “survivors” who themselves had been terrorist fighters or affiliated with terrorist groups and from other anti-Syrian pro-terrorist NGOs. This and the satellite photos were all they were able to produce. Now, however, the U.S. has more to add to the story – crematoriums. With Americans so seemingly impervious to subtlety, the Washington Post saw fit to point out the obvious – that the State Department briefing was “accusations of mass murder and incinerated bodies, evoking the Holocaust.”

Interestingly enough, the first time this report was published, it was on the eve of the Geneva talks, an obvious attempt to muddy the waters and provide the United States with more leverage in the negotiations. This time, we are yet again heading into a round of Geneva talks and the United States yet again has lost leverage in negotiations.

This little tidbit has not been lost on some Russians. Konstantin Kosachev, Chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Committee For Foreign Affairs (in the Upper House of Parliament), stated “New ‘sensational’ and ‘declassified’ US revelations on the alleged ‘mass executions’ in Syria and a crematorium at the Sednaya Prison near Damascus are not very trustworthy.”

“Now, when an absolutely new phase in the Geneva talks (held without the US) is around the corner, the Americans apparently try to once again shift attention to the ‘Assad regime,’ undermining the peace process, wishing this or not,” he added.

The Washington Post, one of many corporate media outlets to have latched on to the story, stated that “The Syrian government has constructed and is using a crematorium at its notorious Sednaya military prison near Damascus to clandestinely dispose of the bodies of prisoners it continues to execute inside the facility, the State Department said Monday.”

Assistant Secretary of State, Stuart Jones, stated “What we’re assessing is that if you have that level of production of mass murder, then ­using the crematorium would . . . allow the regime to manage that number of corpses . . . without evidence.”

“We believe that the building of a crematorium is an effort to cover up the extent of mass murders taking place in Sednaya prison,” he added.

As for the State Department’s evidence, we are, once again, treated to wholly unconvincing “satellite photos” of alleged construction that the State Department takes a wild leap to claim is a crematorium. One need only read the Washington Post’s description of the evidence in order to see just how flimsy it is. Karen DeYoung writes,

The newly released information included a satellite photo of the snow-covered Sednaya complex with an L-shaped building labeled “probable crematorium.” Assessment of the facility, Jones said, included the presence of “the discharge stack, the probable firewall, the probable air intake — this is in the construction phase — this would be consistent if they were building a crematorium.” In a photo taken Jan. 15, he said, “we’re look[ing] at snowmelt on the roof that would be consistent with a crematorium.”

Probable crematorium. Probable firewall. Probable air intake. With all the use of the word “probable” in the description, I would probably say the evidence is probably no evidence at all. Indeed, would any serious intelligence agency base its strategy on such a glaringly obvious lack of evidence?

Tony Cartalucci of Land Destroyer Report agrees when he writes that,

No responsible intelligence agency would submit final reports containing the word “probable,” and more importantly, no responsible state department would cite reports containing the word “probable” to accuse a foreign government of crimes against humanity.

But an intelligence agency tasked with fabricating a narrative and a state department tasked with selling it to the international community would – and as the US State Department has done numerous times in the past and at great cost in human lives and global stability – Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya for example – that is precisely what has happened yet again.

. . . . . .

While the US State Department and the Washington Post attempt to paint an elaborate picture of abuse to shock the international community into condemnation of Syria, what it has really essentially done is resort to the schoolyard tactic of calling the Syrian government, “Hitler.”

The Amnesty International report was published in February 2017. Admittedly presenting no actual evidence, and considering the industrial scale of alleged mass murder and now alleged “incineration” taking place at the facility, one would assume the largest, most powerful intelligence network on Earth in human history could present something months later more substantial than a photograph taken from outer space labeled, “probable crematorium.”

That the largest, most powerful intelligence network on Earth, in human history failed to find anything more substantial indicates there is nothing to find and that instead, the US has deferred once again to fabricating pretexts for its continued meddling beyond its borders, amid catastrophic conflicts it itself engineered and is perpetuating, toward an outcome that suits Washington first and foremost – and especially at the cost of all others involved.

While spokespeople behind the US State Department’s podiums insist that the Syrian “slaughterhouse” is being organized and directed from Damascus, it is clear that just like the dismemberment and destruction of Iraq and Libya – the Syrian “slaughterhouse” is a project organized and directed from Washington.

Indeed, that is exactly what this report and the new accusations are.

Please see my article, “Amnesty International ‘Human Slaughterhouse’ Report Lacks Evidence, Credibility, Reeks Of State Department Propaganda” for a more detailed critique of the original HRW report.

May 20, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , | 2 Comments

Preparing for War on Hizbullah

By Abdel Bari Atwan  | Raialyoum | May 20, 2017

The US-led war on the Islamic Sate group under the banner of fighting terrorism may be viewed by many, especially by Arab members of the coalition that is waging it, as legitimate. But in our view it increasingly looks like a cover or smokescreen aimed at paving the way, or bestowing legitimacy on, a different war: one aimed at eliminating resistance to Israel in the region, and specifically the Lebanese Hizbullah movement.

The US war for Kuwait in 1991 was fought for the same purpose. A trap was set, after careful planning and precise distribution of roles, for Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. Its aim was to drag him into Kuwait to provide a pretext for destroying Iraq, aborting its scientific progress and military ascendancy and undermining its regional role. It is no exaggeration to say that the proxy war on Syria war has a similar objective – not only to destroy and fragment Syria as an adversary of Israel, but to lure a reluctant Hizbullah into the conflict and thus diminish its enormous popularity and the place it gained in hearts of tens or hundreds of millions of Arabs after its two great victories against Israel: First, when it succeeded in liberating southern Lebanon from Israeli occupation in 2000 after years of persistent resistance, and again in July 2006 when it also fought valiantly and stood fast in epic resistance to an Israeli onslaught that sought to annihilate it.

Most of the regional moves currently being made by the US — including Donald Trump’s upcoming visit to Riyadh and the Eager Lion military exercises in Jordan – have one ultimate objective: to declare all-out war on Hizbullah. This includes drying up its financial resources and criminalizing the organization, in the same way Saddam Hussein was criminalized and the Palestinian resistance movement prior to that: first during the days of the PLO and its factions, and then with the rise of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other groups that continue to fight Israel.

The West has a variety of problems with Iran, and the country’s nuclear ambitions are one of the most prominent. But it is possible to live with, and even contain, these ambitions by various means. However, Iran’s unforgivable sin in the West’s eyes was to support Hizbullah in Lebanon and transform it into a formidable military force that poses a real deterrent and threat to Israel at a time when the Arab states were surrendering to it. Many have stopped referring to it as the enemy and instead begun building bridges of cooperation and normalization with it and treating it as a strategic regional ally.

Hizbullah crossed all American and Israeli red lines by developing a vast missile capability (100,000 missiles according to some estimates) along with fighting skills that most of the region’s armies — including the Israeli army — lack, combining attributes of conventional armies with expertise in guerrilla warfare. Moreover, four years of fighting in Syria has further strengthened, developed, and modernized these skills.

There have been reports in recent days of an unpublicized closed-door meeting in Washington involving a number of Gulf and Arab states aimed at agreeing a strategy for confronting Hizbullah in the coming period. Participants included Saudi Arabia and Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and the UAE. This was intended to prepare for the two multilateral summits (with Arab/Muslim leaders and Gulf rulers respectively) that Trump will attend in Riyadh.

Reports from this meeting indicate that the joint Western-Arab plan for confronting Hizbullah include imposing financial sanctions on the organization’s members, supporters and sympathizers around the world, especially Lebanese expatriates in Africa and Europe who provide financial support for the party or institutions affiliated or close to it. This will involve measures to monitor money transfers and dry up all the party’s external funding sources in order to create difficulties for its leadership in financing its political and military structures and its extensive social institutions and activities.

The war on the hardline jihadi groups such as the Nusra Front and IS is drawing towards a close. Nusra is besieged in Idlib, rural Damascus and a few enclaves in rural Aleppo. The recent Astana agreement delegated the task of liquidating it to the so-called moderate Syrian opposition factions backed by the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. As for IS, it has lost most of Mosul, and the war to liberate al-Raqqa by the US-backed Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is now imminent, and will begin as soon as sufficient supplies of American tanks, armoured vehicles and missiles have been delivered to these forces.

In other words, the destruction of the ‘Islamist’ groups that are internationally designated as terrorist organizations will open the door wide to the more important war on Hizbullah, not only in Syria but in Lebanon too. It is to begin with an economic war and culminate in a military offensive — as, indeed, the wars on Iraq did.

Could this scenario which is being implemented in stages against Hizbullah (and by extension Iran) achieve the same success it did against Iraq – and prior to that against the Palestinian presence in Lebanon, which was ended with the 1982 Israeli invasion? It is hard to give a categorical answer to this hypothetical question. What can be said, however, is that circumstances have changed, and Israel has changed as well. Hizbullah is the pivot of a regional and confessional structure, and has the open and total support of Iran, and of Iraq to a lesser degree. Any war against it will not be easy. If the 1991 scenario succeeded in Iraq, that was due above all to Arab collusion and betrayal, as well as the demise of the Soviet Union which left the US as the world’s unchallenged hegemon.

The wars currently unfolding in the region and the conspiracies being hatched are all for the sake of enhancing Israel’s security and stability and maintaining its military power and supremacy. It is ironic that this is happening around the time of the centenary of the infamous Balfour Declaration and Sykes-Picot agreements. For the task now being undertaken is aimed at consolidating the Zionist presence in Palestine and the region envisaged in that Declaration, while dismembering the states that emerged from the womb of those agreements.

May 20, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel, Zionism | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

If NATO Wants Peace and Stability it Should Stay Home

By Ulson Gunnar – New Eastern Outlook – 20.05.2017

A curious op-ed appeared in The National Interest, penned by Hans Binnendijk and David Gompert, adjunct senior fellows at the RAND Corporation. Titled, “NATO’s Role in post-Caliphate Stability Operations,” it attempts to make a case for NATO involvement everywhere from Libya to Syria and Iraq in fostering stability in the wake of a yet-to-be defeated Islamic State.

The authors propose that NATO step in to fill what it calls an impending “vacuum left as the caliphate collapses,” heading off alternatives including “chaos or Iran, backed by Russia, filling the void, with great harm to U.S. and allied interests in either case.” The op-ed never explains why Iran, neighboring Syria and Iraq, are less qualified to influence the region than the United States which exists literally oceans away and shares nothing in terms of history, culture, language or shared interests in stability and peace.

The op-ed would literally claim:

NATO is the only security organization with the skills and breadth to take on this task. The U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition of 68 partners is ill equipped to engage in this complex task. A more cohesive organization such as NATO should lead, but in ways that allow continued Arab participation. A creative version of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) coalition could provide the answer.

It was an interesting choice by the authors to showcase one of NATO’s most stupendous and continuing failures in Afghanistan with mention of the ISAF, a force that not only has failed to bring stability to the Central Asia nation in over a decade and a half of occupation, but has presided over the emergence of the Islamic State there where previously it had no presence.

The reality of what NATO is versus what The National Interest op-ed attempts to pass it off as, resembles more of a sales pitch for a shoddy product than a genuine attempt at geopolitical analysis or problem solving. But the truth goes deeper still.

NATO is a Global Wrecking Ball, It Cannot Create Stability

The op-ed focuses primarily on proposing NATO roles for a post-Islamic State Libya, Iraq and Syria.

Libya is perhaps the most tragic of the three, with NATO having used direct military force in 2011 to topple the government of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in support of known extremists passed off at the time by both NATO spokespeople and the US-European media as “moderate rebels.”

The predictable fallout from this military campaign was the collapse of Libya as a relatively stable and unified nation-state into warring factions. The instability became fertile grounds for extremism, with many of the groups backed by NATO evolving into what is now the “Islamic State.”

The National Interest op-ed also makes mention of “Arab participation.” It should be remembered that the most extreme factions fighting in Libya were not only aided by direct NATO military intervention, but were armed and funded by Persian Gulf dictatorships as well, including Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

A similar pattern of sowing instability has unfolded in Syria, leading to, not averting the rise of the Islamic State.

And Iraq’s instability is a direct and lasting consequence of the US military invasion and occupation of 2003.

If nothing else, this exposes NATO and its members as a collective, global wrecking ball. Just as a wrecking ball cannot be used to construct a building on a vacant lot, NATO cannot be used to construct the conditions for stability across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Really Stopping the Islamic State Means Really Stopping Support for It 

Ultimately, what the op-ed calls for is the permanent occupation of the three nations by NATO forces ranging from special forces in Libya to the formal occupation of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq.

Interestingly, the op-ed suggests that the NATO occupation force in Syria should not only be used to combat the Islamic State, but to also deter “Syrian military thrusts,” referring to the armed forces of the actual and only legitimate government in Syria.

This last point exposes fully what NATO is really interested in, and what this sales pitch is really advertising. NATO is not in MENA to defeat the Islamic State, it is merely using the Islamic State as a pretext to project Western hegemony across the region.

The closing paragraph states:

This NATO strategy cannot, and should not be expected to, settle the Syrian civil war, bring ethnic and sectarian harmony to Iraq, or create an effective Libyan state. What it could do is create conditions of stability in which lasting solutions at least have a chance. It can do so only if the U.S. is ready to call upon NATO to join it in filling the post-ISIS void and for the European allies to answer that call.

Certainly, NATO’s presence in Syria, Iraq or Libya will not bring any sort of stability. NATO has proven its absolute inability to achieve this in its 16 year occupation of Afghanistan. Claiming NATO occupation will “create conditions of stability in which lasting solutions at least have a chance” is merely NATO’s way of ensuring no matter the chaos it itself has created across MENA, it will hold a stake in the outcome if for no other reason because it has literally taken and occupies territory within the post-war region.

It is interesting that the Islamic State rose in the wake of US-led, NATO-backed violence stretching from North Africa to Central Asia and only began to suffer setbacks upon greater and more direct Russian and Iranian intervention.

The bombing of Islamic State and Jabhat Al Nusra logistical lines emanating from NATO-member Turkey’s borders by Russian warplanes, for example, inevitably led to huge gains by the Syrian Arab Army including the eventual liberation of Aleppo, the containment of Idlib and a significant retraction of Islamic State-held territory in eastern Syria.

The torrent of supplies feeding Islamic State and other fronts of extremist militancy flowing from Turkey is the admitted result of Persian Gulf sponsorship, which in turn, serves as an intermediary for US and NATO support for what the US Defense Intelligence Agency called in 2012 (.pdf) a “Salafist principality.”

The specific purpose of this “Salafist principality,” admittedly backed by Persian Gulf dictatorships, Turkey and what the US DIA refers to as “the West,” was to “isolate the Syrian regime.”  Clearly then, were NATO genuinely interested in defeating the Islamic State and undoing the damage it has done, it would begin by withdrawing it and its allies’ own support of the terrorist organization in the first place.

In short, if NATO truly wants to create stability across MENA, it merely needs to stop intentionally sowing instability.

Of course, a unilateral military bloc intentionally sowing chaos across an entire region of the planet is doing so for a very specific purpose. It is the same purpose all hegemons throughout human history have sought to divide and destroy regions they cannot outright conquer. A destroyed competitor may not be as favorable as a conquered, controlled and exploited competitor, but is certainly preferable to a free and independent competitor contributing to a greater multipolar world order. NATO, by embedding itself amid the chaos it itself has created, as it has proven in Afghanistan, only ensures further chaos.

Within this chaos, NATO can ensure if its own membership cannot derive benefit from the region, no one else will. A call like that featured in The National Interest for NATO to bring “stability” to the MENA region stands in stark contrast to the reality that everywhere NATO goes, chaos not only follows, it stays indefinitely until NATO leaves.

The best thing NATO can do for stability across MENA is to leave.

May 20, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments